When Holly Espray crossed the line in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series’ final race of the season opener at Mount Panorama, it was an incredibly proud moment for the teenager.
Making just her second official appearance in the one-make series, after debuting at last year’s Bathurst 1000, Espray’s skill behind the wheel has shown a dramatic improvement.
With 30 cars entered in this year’s round, the Queenslander showed plenty of pace for much of the weekend, battling it out against some very talented drivers and placing just short of the field’s top half in the opening two races.
In the final race of the weekend, the former karter managed to break into the top half of the field and end the round 14th in the standings, within reach of the top 10 and setting the perfect foundation for a strong debut season.
While she is yet to decide on what she wants to do in the future, the weekend’s performance certainly gives her hope in the series after crossing the chequered flag in all races.
“I did the Bathurst 1000 last year in the series to learn the track and the car, and I came back this year with good knowledge in both. I was happy I did a lot better this year,” Espray said.
“The last race was my definitely favourite. It had good race craft and I was a little surprised how well I did. It was cool to have so many spectators there too.
“I really like the 86 Series because it has a large following, good publicity and it’s definitely a route to go if I want to drive Supercars.
“With that said, I honestly don't know what route I would take because I am not sure if I want to go rear-wheel drive or front-wheel drive.
“Hopefully I can move up to Super3, then Super2, and then the main game. Or I could go the other way and try and get into the TCR Australia Series, and go overseas.
“There are lots of options, but this year I will focus on the 86 Series, as well as doing some races in the Queensland Hyundai Excel Series.”
Having been involved in motorsport since she was just five, the 18-year-old started off in karting before making the switch to cars.
Following in the footsteps of her father, who also raced himself when his family lived in the UK, it comes as no surprise that racing comes naturally to Espray, who has an enormous passion for the sport herself.
“I love a lot of things about motorsport, but it’s the adrenaline of motorsport that I love the most,” Espray said.
“I have always loved cars. Even as a kid, I used to get excited when seeing loud cars drive past me.
“Being a girl in a boy’s sport is good, but for me it’s not about being a woman in motorsport. It’s about being a racer. It inspires me to keep going, and I like to show people what I am capable of.
“In karting I was one of three, but now that I have been travelling around the country more, I have been seeing more women which is great. It’s cool to be able to inspire other girls, but I just feel I am another racer.”
Espray will be in action again when the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia 86 Series meets for their second round of the 2021 season during the Winton SuperSprint on 29-30 May.
This feature is part of a series of stories celebrating International Women’s Day on 7 March.